SOS: Lecture 2: The Three Worlds

This is one of a series of posts discussing Rudolf Steiner’s Founding a Science of the Spirit: Fourteen Lectures Given in Stuttgart Between 22 August and 4 September 1906. Visit the tag Science of Spirit for all posts on this topic. 

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I hope everyone has recovered from the Note about Notes and fully wrapped their head around that ball of madness that I summed up  as “a collection of metaphorical, occult lecture notes that talk about practical occultism, Buddi, and glowing auras.” This post is moving on to Lecture 2: The Three Worlds, and trust me, Steiner does not fail to disappoint (in making you feel like you want to smash your head into the desk, watch out for your computer).

Steiner starts with an objection that I find pithy at best:

What use to us is this knowledge you say you have of higher worlds if we cannot look into these worlds for ourselves?

I love to learn about other worlds (higher and otherwise), and very much enjoy documentaries about space and foreign lands, of the three worlds Steiner is speaking of, only one of them can easily explored by the uninitiated:

  1. The physical world, the scene of human life
  2. The astral world or the world of the soul
  3. The devachanic world or world of the spirit (I had to pause and look up devachanic, I think I am left more confused than not)

Steiner (or, more accurately the note takers) does not delve into the physical world, noting “everyone is familiar with it and the physical laws which obtain there” so we will go directly to the astral world.

Things are different in the astral world:

  • people will at first be bewildered
  • things appear reversed/mirror image, e.g. reading numbers backwards
  • people can see their passions and desires
  • time moves backwards, effect then cause — this is how prophecy is possible
  • thoughts and feelings are a reality
  • speaking truths creates life-promoting elements, lies/hostile forces destroy/kill
  • world of colors
  • this realm sets a foundation for morality

Highlights from the astral world that stood out me:

In the long run no mere preaching of morality will be effective, but a knowledge of truth gives morality a sound basis. To preach morality is like preaching to a stove about its duty to provide warmth and heat, while not giving it any coat. If we want a firm foundation for morality, we must occupy the soul with fuel in the form of knowledge and truth.

I like the imagery of preaching to a stove. People are the same way, unless you provide them the skills and tools they need to complete a task, how can they be expected to succeed?

If we speak the truth about our neighbor, we are creating a thought which the seer can recognize by its color and form, and it will be a thought which gives strength to our neighbor. … Every spoken truth creates a life-promoting element; every lie, an element hostile to life. Anyone who knows this will take much greater care to speak the truth and avoid lies than if he is merely preached at and told he must be nice and truthful. (emphasis mine)

This reminds me of Paul’s whatevers in Phillippians 4:8, but is slightly more fatalistic (bad thoughts damage the astral body). The “every lie, an element hostile to life” reminds me a bit of Ms. Eddy’s “malicious animal magnetism” although the focus is more on minding one’ s own thought than being harmed by the thoughts of others. I’m unsure if Steiner is going to elaborate on this — if anyone knows more on this, please leave a comment or email me — I’m rather curious about this aspect of it. Is it a universal idea among thinkers and philosophers in the mid-1800s?

Above the astral world is the devachan world, which comes with it’s own special features:

  • it is the world of spirit and musical sounds
  • heavenly bodies can be heard, harmony of the cosmos, everything lives in music
  • astral world remains fully present — hear  devachan, see astral, but changed
  • see in the negative “through photographic plate”
  • see in complimentary colors — red instead of green, yellow instead of blue

The Devachan realm has several regions

  • First region: see archetypes of the physical world that has no life, minerals, humans, plants and animals in very basic lifeless form (?)
  • Second region: life force of plants and animals can be seen clearly, no minerals — “ocean”
  • Third region, “atmosphere” feelings, emotions, pleasure and pain where ever they are active in the physical. Everything that has a life forms the “ocean” all emotion is in the atmosphere.
  • Fourth section: transcends everything that might still have existed if there was no mankind (HUH?!)
  • Askasha Chronicle (had to stop and look it up, and again, am more confused than not), the Akasha is a living collection of images, intentions, thoughts and imaginations.

I’m not totally sure I’ve taken anything from the Devachan world other than the need to re-read the section because I don’t totally get it. Steiner (and his note takers) talk about Goethe and Caesar and seances and living images, and it is a bit too surreal for me to wrap my head around at the moment.

The lecture concludes with the disconcerting notion:

Strange as these facts may seen, they are facts none the less.

Right then.

RESOURCES & additional reading FOR THE CURIOUS